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So I'm trying to be a good little blogger and update this puppy every day. I've got two hours left before it's tomorrow and I don't have the picture I need to do the update I want, so we're going into the vault.
A couple years ago I put the biggest above ground pool I could find in my living room. The pictures were posted to a bunch of those link collecting sites and almost 7000 people saw the pictures the first day. Every year or so they are rediscovered and they get a ton of hits. However, I've never publicly told the story of the pool and why I did it. Avast!
One day my friend Crystal sends me an IM. Here's a dramatic rendition of the event :
When I first bought an RV to live in last year a lot of people thought that it was a phase I would quickly snap out of. Part of me thought the same thing. Would a move from a 2000 square foot condo to a 100 square foot RV be bearable?
As it turned out, it was more than bearable. I loved it. When I left the country to travel, I sold everything including the RV I loved so much. Seven months later, back in Austin and faced with the proposition of finding somewhere to live, the decision was simple.
I wanted another RV, and it had to be even smaller.
Recently a comment was posted where someone asked why I don't drink. I do seem to mention it in a number of posts, mostly those where I'm complaining how hard it is to find a girl who also doesn't drink, but I suppose I've never explained why. I also don't do drugs, smoke, or take medicine.
I've never had a drink in my life. I went to a private school in Andover, Massachusetts for middle school and I don't think anyone there drank. Maybe they did and I was blissfully ignorant. I remember one kid got caught for smoking and it was a huge controversy.
After middle school my family moved to Austin, Texas and I went to a public high school. My first day there I got lost and happened to have wandered behind the building. to my surprise there was a huge mass of kids smoking cigarettes and pot. One such kid, a Junior, picked me up and put me in a trash can.
Yesteday Todd and I were choosing a place to go to lunch. I normally go to Whole Foods because they have healthy delicious food, unlike almost everywhere else. However, we wanted to try somewhere new. How about Veggie Heaven?
I'd never been there before, despite living across the street from it for two years. I used to eat awful food on a daily basis, and considered vegetarian and vegan food to be for hippies. I still do, actually.
Anyway, we get to the restaurant and are handed three menus each. The main menu had almost fifty items in it. Many were marked as being vegan. Hey, this must be healthy, right?
NEW: Video link added to the bottom 12/14
NEW: Second video link added to the bottom 12/15
Haha... two secret posts in a row. I have a mental list of stories I want to write here, and somehow this one had slipped off of it. Luckily, a UT Grad who goes by "The Reel Deal" posted a comment reminding me about the story. So here it goes, with a little history first.
I never thought I'd go to UT (The University of Texas, not Tennessee). Ever since I was in middle school, I always knew that I'd go to MIT - it was where the smart geeky people went, and I was one of them. When it came time to do applications for schools, I mailed two of them. One for MIT and one for WPI, a lesser known technical school in Massachusetts. I had abysmal grades, due in a large part to my refusal to do most homework and having never actually studied for a test. I always thought it was interesting to see how much of the material I'd naturally retained. Let's just say it usually wasn't over 80%.
Okay, okay, okay... I'll write the gear post before the year's over! One of the things that keeps me from writing all year is that it never really feels like the stuff in my pack has changed all that much. I switch one item at a time, never thinking I have much to write about. Then the end of the year comes, the citizenry demands a post, and I'm always surprised to see just how much has changed.
I called last year's gear post the Style Edition because although it was 100% functional, I also made a few choices to have slightly better looking clothing. That trend has continued a little bit this year, but I'm calling this one the Zen Edition because my already minimal packing list has become even shorter.
When I first started traveling, the minimalism aspect of it was pure coincidence. I had intended on buying a normal backpack, but Todd convinced me to go smaller. Our first 28L Deuter Futura backpacks seemed impossibly small at first, but after a year of learning what is and isn't necessary, space gradually opened up. My response was to fill it with new gadgets-- eventually I had a portable kettlebell, a full cot with silk sheets, and who knows what else.
As the years went on, Todd continued to get smaller backpacks, which influenced me to get smaller backpacks as well. I would always pack them completely full until recently. Last year I had some empty space, and now my pack is less than halfway full. If I could find a well organized and designed 12 liter pack, I would use it.
Part of the reason I have less stuff now is because technology keeps getting better. My laptop is tiny and light. The camera I have now couldn't exist five years ago when I started all this. Everything charges with the same cable. The other reason I've continued to reduce what I travel with, though, is because carry unnecessary items makes your trip worse. They weigh your pack down, clutter it up, and make it take longer to pack and unpack. The less I travel with, the better my experience is. At this point my pack weighs 10.7 pounds, which makes it trivial to carry it all day, even when climbing through the mountains.
I've been saying that college is obsolete for a very long time. I dropped out in 2000, because even back then I could see that it was a really poor value proposition. I didn't predict this because I'm some crazy genius, but because I'm willing to discard emotional attachment and stare plainly at the facts.
School is outrageously expensive, leaving graduates with a debt (or net expenditure) of tens of thousands of dollars-- sometimes even one or two hundred thousand. There are some things that are worth that amount of money, but for many people school isn't one of them. In fact, apart from very specific cases, I think that school is a bad thing, not worth doing even if it was free.
That's not to say that school has no benefits whatsoever. It does, and although I left with zero additional skills after my three semesters there, I had a good time and benefited from the social aspect. The problem is that you can't just compare college to doing nothing at all. You have to compare it to what you COULD have done.
Let's say that when you turn eighteen, it's a good idea to take four years to develop yourself. College is one way to do that. If we were to construct an alternative way to do that, what could it look like? One of the biggest weaknesses of school is how inflexible it is, so one of the greatest benefits of designing your own curriculum is that you could come up with one that uniquely suits you. That said, here's a plan that I think would benefit many people MORE than school would. Let's call it the Hustler's MBA.
For those of you who were linked here, or who are new to my blog this year, every year I write a gear post which contains every single item I travel with. Despite being minimal, the set of gear is fully functional, allowing me to be comfortable and productive everywhere from the tropical beaches of the Caribbean to the ski mountains of Tahoe.
This year I thought I'd start off by sharing some of the principles behind my gear selection. You can use these principles to guide your own gear search, or simply to evaluate whether my choices match your own needs.
The overriding priority in my search is functionality. I will always choose function over form, even if the difference in form is large and the difference in function is minor. I've simply found that my productivity is not improved when a device I use is prettier, and that my enjoyment of travel is not affected by the style of my clothing. This is why my clothes tend not to be from mainstream brands and why Apple products very rarely make it to my gear list.
Functionality may be my overriding priority, but size and weight are close. Unlike fashion, I have found that having a lighter pack allows me more flexibility and enjoyment. There's a huge difference between having to check in to a hotel to drop off luggage and being able to go straight from a train to a mountain to climb. I also really like stretching out layovers to be a half or full day instead of two hours, so having a light pack allows me to do whatever I want without having to find somewhere to leave my luggage.
Yesterday there was a story about me, my RV, and my friends on the front page of the SF Chronicle site. The article was really nicely written and very positive about the whole RV thing. Hundreds of comments were left on the post, and 95% of them were negative. The negativity was absolutely astounding. I could hardly believe how many people spent the time to sign up and leave vitriolic comments.
Amongst the criticisms and rants that I thought were pretty unfounded, one was hard to argue with: this guy is a narcissist!
Although I think it's important to be emotionally unaffected by baseless negativity, that doesn't automatically mean that all negative comments are baseless. I mean, they do have a point: I wear a silver necklace with my name on it. So I'm a narcissist. I like to think that I'm not a really bad narcissist, but maybe that's like an alcoholic pointing out that he's not the biggest alcoholic on the planet .
As a blogger I think that it's important to write about failures as well as successes, high points as well as low points. Maybe in this spectrum there's also room for things that I'm unsure of, like narcissism.
I had never gambled before and knew nothing about it, but I'd gotten too many e-mails like it. I was at my parents house for winter break during my first year at UT, and I was bored.
"Free $50 just for downloading our casino!"
Hmm. That doesn't seem very risky. I might as well download to see what it's all about.